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Frederick E. Berry Institute of Politics Inaugural Event with Abby Phillip

The Future of our Democracy: A Conversation with CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip

Salem State University hosted a virtual discussion with CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip on May 4. Drawing a crowd of 132 attendees from the Salem State community and beyond, the discussion marked the formal kickoff of the university’s nonpartisan Frederick E. Berry Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement (Berry IOP). It was moderated by Karen Andreas, president and CEO of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce and former publisher of the North of Boston Media Group.

The event, “The Future of Our Democracy: A Conversation with Abby Phillip,” was presented by Arbella Insurance Foundation and GraVoc. This conversation gave attendees an inside glimpse at the realities of being a White House reporter, the role of journalism in our democracy, the importance of instilling and maintaining trust in the media, and a discussion of up-and-coming political leaders who are leading through bipartisanship.  

This event was especially impactful for Salem State students who are aspiring to be journalists. “Abby Phillip provided great insight and advice for pursuing a career in journalism,” stated Michael Corely, a Salem State student who was able to ask Phillip a question live during the event.

“Stick with it,” Phillip said when asked for advice about becoming a journalist. “You have to have some degree of patience with the industry and the process of you developing yourself and building your sense of self confidence in your job, what you do, and what you like to do and don’t like to do. But really just stick with it.”

Abby Phillip, age 32, is a CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of Inside Politics Sunday. She joined the network in 2017 to cover the Trump Administration and served as a White House Correspondent through 2019. In January 2020, she moderated CNN's Democratic Primary Debate in Iowa. She also anchored several days of special coverage around the 2020 election results. In January 2021, she anchored the CNN Special Report: Kamala Harris: Making History about the Vice President's barrier-breaking career and the childhood experiences that helped shape her. Phillip joined CNN from the Washington Post where she most recently served as a national political reporter, covering the White House.

“It's such a pleasure to be speaking at an Institute of Politics with a mission that is focused on public service and civic engagement because I really do see journalism as a form of public service, as a form of civic engagement, and I’m very proud of that,” said Phillip. “That’s why I do this. Because I actually really believe in our political system,” 

The Berry IOP was founded to commemorate the legacy of State Senator Frederick E. Berry, who passed away on November 13, 2018. In November of 2019, Salem State University announced that the Berry IOP was being launched through a state funding appropriation sponsored by State Senator (Second Essex) Joan B. Lovely and State Representative (7th Essex District-Salem) Paul Tucker following advocacy from local community members. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the university to postpone plans for a spring 2020 kickoff.

The Berry IOP is overseen by Salem State University’s Center for Civic Engagement, and an advisory board has been formed to carry out its mission: to engage and inspire a diverse community of learners to pursue careers in political and public service, while also convening public and private sector leaders to discuss and move forward issues of significance to Massachusetts.


In the announcement of the May 4 event, President Keenan and members of the Massachusetts State Legislature reflected on Senator Berry’s legacy. 

“This discussion with Abby Phillip, a leading voice in national politics, is certain to offer an insightful window into the social and political challenges facing our country and the role that we all play in our democracy’s future; and who better to guide this conversation than Karen Andreas, a veteran journalist and community leader,” said Salem State University President John D. Keenan. “The spirit of this kickoff event does a great service to Senator Berry’s memory, as he was passionate about not only engaging in public service himself, but inspiring the next generation to do so. I am particularly excited about the opportunity this discussion brings to our students as they prepare to lead in their professions, their communities, and beyond.” 

“Senator Frederick E. Berry was a champion of public service and built a legacy of promoting civic engagement and political participation for all,” said State Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “I am proud to have secured funding in the state budget for this important new resource and to see the Berry IOP come to fruition as a place that will keep the love of public service alive for future generations.”

"Throughout his tenure in public service, Fred Berry was tenacious in his commitment to those with special challenges in their lives that demand the attention of state government. He gave them a powerful, articulate, compassionate, and effective voice, and the strength that comes from bipartisan collaboration. Today these things endure not only as a lasting legacy but also as a beacon to guide our future," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. "The Institute of Politics and Civic Engagement at Salem State University not only honors Fred's personal example, it also continues his work of expanding community engagement and fostering a greater sense of, and dedication to, the obligations we all have to each other as both public servants and private citizens. I was honored to work with Fred in the legislature, and proud to now support the institute that bears his name." 

The Berry IOP adds to the programming and opportunities offered by Salem State’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), which launched in 2015 and serves as the nexus for community-based initiatives, civic learning, and public engagement at Salem State University.

In 2020, after a rigorous self-study, Salem State received the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, indicating its significant commitment to community and civic engagement. The university takes part in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement and has shown a student voting rate well above the national average, earning Salem State a gold seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

Learn more about the Salem State University Center for Civic Engagement.

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